Predator

Shane Black in Predator

Things are coming full circle for Shane Black, the famed action screenwriter who made his on screen debut shortly after his first scripted movie (Lethal Weapon) opened in theaters. His first credited role was in Predator as Hawkins, the bespectacled, comic book-reading radio operator who was a member of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special forces team. He was also the first man to die. Now he’s been resurrected within the franchise off screen, as The Hollywood Reporter tells us that he’s signed on to write a treatment for a new Predator reboot, which he’ll also direct. Black’s Monster Squad collaborator Fred Dekker is on board to handle the actual screenplay for the new installment. A few things come quickly to mind with this news. One is that 20th Century Fox and original producer John Davis have finally, after 28 years, got Black to pen some material for the franchise they’d attempted to have him work on in the form of a script polish in 1986. Another is that he should make this a sequel where he again appears, this time as Hawkins’s twin brother looking for revenge, and he again dies first. Finally, the most immediate association anyone should have with something Black is involved in: this Predator will have to be set during the Christmas season. The funny thing is, there was already an image of the Predator made up like Santa Claus existing on the web just waiting for this all to happen.

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IntroCasting

There are a million and a half uninteresting reasons why actors did and did not get certain parts. Usually the casting process is fickle – hell-bent on height and age, sometimes people are rejected just because they don’t seem right for the part. An agent gives someone a script, they like it, contracts are signed. It’s all pretty anticlimactic, which is what makes the following casting stories far more fun.

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The Predator franchise has fizzled in recent years, but like anything with even the slightest amount of name recognition, the next reboot is always right around the corner. Now, it seems that the corner the next Predator film is hiding behind can be found at Comic-Con. Over the weekend, 20th Century Fox released a new image onto the Facebook page for 2010’s Predators — an odd place to start building hype, but it seems to have done its job. The image (seen above) shows San Diego from the point of view of the Yuata’s (Predator’s) thermal vision, alongside a quote from the original film: “There’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man… We’re all gonna die.” Followed by a new hashtag. 

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IntroEffects

Sometimes the best solution is also the easiest. When it comes to making movies, however, nothing tends to be easy. Then again, there have been a few instances where the solution – while still not anywhere close to easy – was at least simple. Cheap, even. Check out the following big budget effects that you could theoretically recreate in your own basement.

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IntroPOV

Technically speaking, a “POV shot” could count anything coupled with a reaction shot, or any over the shoulder shots – but that aside, there’s none better than the straight on, through-the-characters-eyes shot that’s been around almost as long as filmmaking has. It’s cemented itself in the craft since the 1940s, and has unsurprisingly taken a great array of variations over eight decades. Let’s look at some of the best, most iconic, uses of the classic POV shot, shall we?

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IntroBadassWounds

So you’ve been shot/stabbed/eaten/burned/dismembered/amputated/face melted by an ancient artifact, what are you going to do next? If you answered, “go into shock while screaming like an asshole” then you’re probably on track. In the movies, of course, that’s a different story – people like to do cool stuff while dying in movies, act all badass for our amusement. Let’s look at 20 such fallen heroes. Spoilers should go without saying. But we said it. Right there. So no one can complain.

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John McTiernan on Die Hard set

He’s made some amazing films, he stands as an icon of a lengthy era, but I submit that John McTiernan is still an unfairly maligned filmmaker. He’s relegated by many to a position as merely a mindless action director, and maybe, yeah, Rollerball was tough to stomach, but there’s a reason why Die Hard is still used as the template in thousands of pitch meetings every year. Plus, the guy went to Juilliard (so he’s probably also an incredible dancer). Those who dismiss him do so at their own peril and have clearly never heard the man speak about the craft of filmmaking. He knows a production truck’s worth of practical information and can condense it into lessons that make sense to all of us rubes. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who started his studio career by having an alien attack Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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When you boil it all down, it’s all subjective. Movie critics are really just people who are better at communicating their opinions clearly, but they aren’t perfect all of the time. Nor are they psychics in any way. Sometimes time (and audiences) won’t going to agree with them, and that’s okay. As the following ten movies show us, there are times when a film isn’t an instant classic. Some require a bit more time to be broken in. Today’s trash might be tomorrow’s classic.

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Junkfood Cinema - Large

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; always out of order. Every week, we throw the book at an especially, unlawfully bad movie. But just when it seems the movie has absolutely no case, we sweep in as champion defenders and get the charges against it dismissed on a few rose-colored technicalities. We then take everybody out for ice cream…or 3lb cinnamon rolls…or whatever we can wrangle. The last few weeks, we’ve thrown the book out (seriously, we are gonna lose that damn book if we keep throwing it) and abandoned our usual format. This week is no exception…nor is it exceptional…which is also no exception. Recently, we were able to get our hands on the stenographer’s report from one of the most landmark cases in American history. No, we’re not talking about some white collar stockbroker who shorted millions from the poor, nor are we talking about some drunk driving celebrity who may or may not have gotten wasted and careened into a roadside shark tank. We are in fact talking about a heated trial in the court of public opinion against a 2004 film which melded two beloved franchises. Here now is the recap of case #LV426-PRD; The People vs. Alien vs. Predator. 

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Shaun of the Dead

We all know what it feels like when a film touches on events yet to come. Usually it’s the best when it’s something that you could only pick up on after already watching the film once before – it’s like a little inside joke you get to have with the filmmakers, a reward for sitting through the movie more than once. At times it’s not even the fact that it foreshadows event in the films, but rather that it’s so subtle that it takes a few goes to even pick up on. Other times are less subtle, but just as fun. This is probably going to have spoilers in it. Just to be clear.

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If you’re “too old” to skulk around all hunch-backed in your own yard looking for the painted eggs your little cousin hid for you, why are you holding that remote with the Pause Button at the ready? We all love hunting. It’s in our nature. Just like we love discounted Criterion titles, free scotch and foot massages that don’t mean anything sexual. So here are some Movie Easter Eggs to hunt down. Bonus one? They involve movies, so you have a solid excuse to just watch movies all week. Bonus two? If you can’t find them, they won’t smell rotten after a few days. And be sure to add your favorite in the comments section for fellow hunter/gatherers:

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If I had to pick two things that I just can’t get enough of in films, it would have to be a good underdog story and gratuitous physical violence. It is only natural then that I would build a humble list of some of my favorite moments in cinema where the two are combined. When I think about what makes a fight particularly one-sided, it actually has less to do with the amount of people that the hero is up against and more about the hero’s strengths, or rather lack thereof. But then there’s always going to be an ‘awesome’ factor to think about, because when it is all said and done the hero usually triumphs against the odds – so the means in which they do such a thing is very important to me; being badass certainly has its merits, but in most cases, being creative is far more impressive.

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Editor’s Note: We’ve spent a while searching for a fitting replacement for Ashe (who we still miss), but we’re elated to welcome David Christopher Bell to our team. He’ll be writing insightful lists for us every Thursday from now until we stop blackmailing him for that thing he did in Florida in 1986. Please give him a warm welcome! It’s funny. After Anthony Perkins first appeared as Norman Bates there was absolutely no going back from it. No matter what role he was put in after Norman, when audiences looked at him all they could see was the shower-interrupting taxidermologist that they feared so deeply. This proved to be a major hindrance in his career, causing him never to land any major role in the industry afterward. Now if only he had worn a mask. After all, if horror films have taught us anything it’s that no matter how effective a performance is, if you have a bunch of rubber on your face, mainstream audiences aren’t going to end up learning your name or recognizing your face. So in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, the following are some of those very names and faces that are responsible for some of the greatest movie nightmares of modern horror. People who you could walk right by on the streets and never know that they are to thank for all those times your childhood-spawned neuroses forced you to double-check under your bed.

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We packed the truck that would travel to location in Palenque, Mexico a few days before we traveled via airplane. The set crew: Steve Wang, Matt Rose, Shane Mahan, Brian Simpson, Richard Landon and me. Stan Winston would be with us, supervising the set work, understanding that we would only be gone for two weeks. At least that is what our work visas indicated. Palenque, Mexico was not a location easily reached. It required one flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City, another to Villa Hermosa, and finally a long ride in a Volkswagen bus through miles of rough country until we reached our hotel that was, from what we were told, the best in the area. It sat in a large clearing, surrounded by trees; two wings of rooms branched out from a central building that housed a restaurant/bar. Later, we discovered that Arnold Schwarzenegger had taken over the entire upper conference room and had turned it into a gymnasium that was open to anyone on the crew. As we settled into our rooms we were told that there would be screening of the film the next day for the cast and crew. My understanding was that this was for the benefit of the new crew members to get a chance to catch up and understand the shots needed to complete the film. A screen and projectors were set up in Arnold’s gym.

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By now, most fans credit Steve Wang and Matt Rose for the creation of the Predator. However, in my conversations with Steve, in particular, he feels that an unfair amount of credit has been given to him; it was a team effort bringing the Predator to life, and he couldn’t be more correct. During Monster Squad, Matt and Steve, who had been responsible for the Gillman, had worked through the weekend, grabbing precious few hours of sleep, while they established and painted the final suit. On Monday morning, it stood in the middle of Stan Winston’s satellite shop in all of its amphibian beauty. Stan saw it and his jaw bounced onto his chest. He had NEVER seen anything like it. It impressed him so much, that he, literally, stopped the work in the studio, gathered all of his employees around it and heaped praise upon these two kids (Matt was roughly 21 and Steve 20…maybe?). He said it was the best thing he had seen in his career thus far. Probably not the best strategy in the world. Months earlier, he was in England with his crew working on the Queen Alien, and now he was recognizing these two studio newcomers as the best. Where most of us in the shop agreed with Stan, there was some dissension.

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There are events that define one’s existence that go beyond being learning or growing experiences. They become scars. Battle scars. They may fade in time, but they don’t go away. They persist. The memories of the events may become blurry, but every now and then, you run your fingertips along the raised, healed wound and remember. It all comes back like a punch in the nose. I had been on movie sets before and believed that I had been trained. The snarky ADs , the disinterested teamsters, the hustling, the waiting, they were all nearly second-nature to me, especially with the close of my on-set involvement with Monster Squad. However, nothing could prepare me for what I was going to face. My first location experience. My first time out of the country. My first time working set on a big budget film. My first time supervising a team. Predator would be all of those things and it would change my life forever.

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Boiling Point

No matter what I say below, know this: I will see Shark Night 3D. There are no press screenings, no DVDs mailed to my home. I will head out to a theater to watch it because I love sharks and I love watching people get eaten by them. So to be extra clear: I haven’t seen the film yet. No one has. But still, I’m going to bitch about it, because that’s how I roll. Why? Well, because it’s easy to get mad at this film. It’s rated PG-13. I mean, if there ever was a title for a hard R-rating, it’s Shark Night 3D. After all, Piranha 3D, which was probably instrumental in green lighting this late entry to Shark Week, was well received because of its gore. Its nudity. Its generally over the top nature. Without Jerry O’Connell getting his dick bit off and two hot, naked women swimming for six minutes, that film is a pile of crap. The blood makes it – and the PG-13 rating for Shark Night might break it.

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Why Watch? Because you’ve always wondered who would win in a fight between Batman and… The legality of all this is completely unclear (to a simple caveman like me), and it would be a shame to ruin the surprise of the characters who show up here, but Batman has to take on some baddies that are new to Gotham. All of them are iconic to film fans, but they’re fresh off the boat as far as Bruce Wayne is concerned. This extended fight sequence was written and directed by Sandy Collora who has done creature effects, design and gained some acclaim for writing/directing Hunter Prey recently. Plus, it features Andrew Koening (yes, the guy who played Boner on Growing Pains) as a surprisingly creepy Joker, and a Batman that sounds like Keaton mated with Bale (in the good way). Enjoy geeking out. Or biding your time before The Dark Knight Rises hits your eyeballs. What does it cost? Just 6 minutes of your time.

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For those of you who are new to the column, I’m revisiting formative events that have contributed to what I am now: A Special Make Up Effects Artist seeking relevance in the 21st Century. So, I’ve learned about liquid latex, got my camera, am hyped up on Star Wars, and ready to move up to the next level. I am sixteen – When the box appeared at my house, I was surprised at how heavy it was for its relative size. The shipping label was yellow and red, and in the upper left hand corner it confirmed that my order had arrived. “R&D Latex Corporation, Commerce, CA” it read. Finally, after a decade I held in my hands a box that contained the mystical material, the magical substance that turned actors into apes, had aged Dustin Hoffman to over 100 years old, and was the stuff of Ray Harryhausen Stop Motion Models! As you may remember, I read about R&D Latex Corporation in an article about building Stop Motion Models in “Super 8 Filmmaker” magazine, and I had sent in my fifty dollars (forty-five dollars for the one gallon kit plus five dollars shipping). By today’s standards that seems fairly reasonable, but in those days, when you worked at a grocery store and took home about $100 or less, $50 was quite the investment.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with stuntman legend Vic Armstrong (who brought to life Indiana Jones, Superman and James Bond). We also chat with camera operator/cinematographer Peter Simonite (Skateland, Tree of Life), and we dig deeper into the monster-making world of effects master Shannon Shea. Plus, Matt Razak from Flixist spars off with Mike Smith from Examiner.com for our Movie News Pop Quiz, and we all learn an important lesson. By that, I mean a lesson about re-imaginings, reboots and re-re-re-makes. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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